The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has called for the prosecution in court, all the policemen who assaulted the three Ghanaian Times Journalists last Thursday.
Condemning the assault and describing it as abhorrent and “exhibition of clear unprofessionalism and unbridled impunity”, the commission said “the errant policemen should be prosecuted in court instead of being subjected to internal disciplinary enquiry to deter others and to reassure Ghanaians that the police were not superior to the law.”
“These actions involving the use of excessive and unreasonable force by the police is clear evidence of human rights violation which Article 15 (1) and (2) of the 1992 Constitution abhors”, a statement signed by CHRAJ Commissioner, Joseph Whittal on Friday March 15, said.
The commission asked the Inspector General of Police to show personal interest in the matter and ensure thorough investigations and crack the whip as required by law.
The commission further recommended that the victims; Malik Sulemana, Raissa Sambou, both reporters and a Senior Assistant Editor, Salifu Abdul Rahman, be compensated for the injuries, trauma and losses they suffered.
“The commission wishes to remind the IGP and the Police Service over which he superintends that the timing of this assault by his men on innocent citizens coming on the heels of the clear unprofessional conduct exhibited by police officers in their testimonies before the Emile Short Commission Hearings into the Ayawaso West Wougon shooting incidents televised live and viewed by all Ghanaians nationwide is most disappointing and not reassuring of the professionalism of the Service and any lessons learnt,” the statement said.
It pointed out that CHRAJ, had cautioned the Ghana Police Service several times to exercise restraint or to be judicious when handling human beings but this has not been heeded to.
It reaffirmed the mandate of the commission, including the promotion and protection of the fundamental human rights of all persons living in Ghana as well as ensuring fair administration of all public services including the Police Service in the delivery of service by these public institutions and public officials.
” It is from this perspective that the commission views the abhorrent assault on these journalists by police officers who were expected to protect them but who rather with impunity turned around to assault them as an exhibition of clear unprofessionalism and unbridled impunity which must be checked,” the statement said.
The CHRAJ urged the general public to report incidences of police brutality whenever they occurred, and also called on civil society organisations, religious bodies, and other relevant institutions to come out and condemn the ” barbaric act in no uncertain terms.”
It also encouraged the citizenry to be law abiding as they enjoy their rights and freedoms with caution, ensuring that they operated within the structures of the law.
It is recalled that the journalists, who were on their way to venues for their assignments for the day, were assaulted on Thursday by about 10 policemen and a military man led by Sergeant Ebenezer Asiedu of the Accra Regional SWAT Unit of the police service.
Mr Sullemana and Ms Sambou were physically brutalised for engaging a policeman who had jumped traffic and broken the bumper, mirror and windscreen of the Nissan saloon car they were travelling on.
Ms Sambou, who is a nursing mother, had to be rushed to the Greater Accra Regional (Ridge) Hospital after going unconscious as she was elbowed and punched in the tummy by one of the raging policemen.
Mr Sullemana, who was thrown into a police cell for close to four hours at the Ministries Police Station, received medical attention later at the Cocoa Clinic.
A Senior Assistant Editor, Mr Rahman, was also heckled by the men in uniform with threats to confiscate his bag and phone.
CHRAJ joins the growing list of organisations including the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), National Media Commission (NMC), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and individuals who have condemned the attacks and called for justice to be served.
Meanwhile the Police Administration says it has instituted investigation into the case, according to Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) David Eklu, Director-General of Public Affairs.
A statement issued last Friday said, the police officer has been identified and statement taken from him and other witnesses at the Ministries Police Station while that of the victims were yet to be taken.
It said Preliminary information gathered does not suggest the journalists were targeted because of their profession but it was a traffic offence which resulted in a scuffle between the journalists and the police officers.
The traffic accident, it said had been reported at the Ministries Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD).
In view of public outrage and the friction between the media and the police, it said the Police was collaborating with the MFWA, GJA, NMC and other media partners to develop pragmatic frame work to ensure the safety and improve working relations between the Police and the media.